Pipeline Morning Glory

Yesterday there was a unique convocation of plant geeks at that little un-named city park at the corner of Rt. 92 and Schoolhouse Terrace Road, in between Old Bisbee and San José.

Cado Daily organized the gathering; she’s my friend and musical cohort, and incidentally a State Extension Agent for this county.

It was a slow-moving flock of plant-lovers which wandered up the path, with people grouping and re-grouping and with a lot of photography happening. I simply love that little park; I’ve been there at least ten times this year. There’s always something new to be seen, such varied plants growing from between shingles of decaying limestone, and there always seems to be at least one Curve-billed Thrasher piping up with its interrogatory call: “Peet, peet?”

I talked at length with an employee of the City Of Bisbee, a man who loves the park and wants to make it more accessible without affecting its ecological integrity. He pointed out to me and some others a rare species of morning glory clambering up a yucca.

This man explained to me that the park had originally been a right-of-way for a natural gas pipeline, which is still buried there, and that the gas company had donated the property to the city ten years ago.

The meeting took place in the afternoon, so the morning glory’s blooms were faded. This morning, after a quick jaunt up a canyon up on Juniper Flats, I walked down the path at the little park again and found the Canyon Morning Glories (Ipomoea barbatisepala) in splendid full bloom. I was impressed.

Two blossoms with yucca background and support:

Pipeline-1

The peculiarly lobed leaves:

Pipeline-2

Pretty cool, eh? Just wait until you see my photos from Juniper Flats!

Larry

Orb-weavers Gotta Weave

A couple days ago I wrote a post about some local arthropods:

Arthropodia

I thought I had seen the last of the Smiley Face Spider (Araneus illaudatus) illustrated in that post. I couldn’t blame the creature, as I had kept it in captivity in a jar for far too long.

But this afternoon I noticed that an orb-weaver spider had built an elaborate orb web between my front porch’s roof and a post. I got out my camera, and with its nice zoom capability I quickly determined that the spider silhouetted against the deep blue sky was of the same species, and possibly even the same one that I had photographed! How incredibly cool that a mistreated spider would take up residence here, where I can see it every day!

The spider kept advancing and retreating from a web-captured insect near the center of the web, probably giving the doomed prey another shot of venom each time. I patiently waited until the female predator stopped to catch its breath.

Here’s a rather grainy zoomed shot:

Orb-weaver

Larry

I’m In Musical Love…

After viewing this wonderful video I’m now a fan and devotee of Kate Davis. She both sings and plays the upright bass in such a masterful way that I’m just blown away, drifting on the desert breeze. Have a listen:

Larry

Morning Safeway Run

This morning I woke up just before dawn, as is my wont. I was terribly hungry, with a fierce gnawing in my gut. I got up, pulled on some jeans, and went prospecting in the fridge. I really wanted some eggs, but I was all out!

Okay, that was fine, I really like an excuse to exit this confining canyon in the morning and get a better look at the sky.

Before long I was cruising past the appalling Lavender Pit and the wastelands of mine spoils. After the traffic circle I turned onto Rt. 92, on my way to the Safeway store.

As I left the canyon and gained altitude a morning sky of wondrous splendor greeted me. The mountains just south of the border were swathed in cloud-banks just being tinged with rosy hues from the rising sun.

Unfortunately I was behind a slow-poke driver and I resisted the impulse to tailgate and honk my truck’s horn. Mentally I transmitted a message to the driver of the slow car: “Damn it, pull over and regard the splendid sight before you! GTF out of my way!”

As I came into San José I just couldn’t find a good vantage point from which I could take photos. That southermost extension of Bisbee is simply riddled and swathed with power, phone, and cable lines and poles! I pulled over anyway and took this shot:

Sept_Morning-1

I drove south a little ways on the Naco Highway and found a better spot, right between the Dollar General store and Ace hardware:

Sept_Morning-2

I then went to the Safeway store and bought eggs. Once I was back at the apartment I cooked this, ate the plate of food with great enjoyment, and now I’m going back to bed for a while!

Sept_Morning-3

Larry

Just Imagine…

Way back in the pre-internet dark ages I was an unwilling high school student. Most of the curriculum for “college track” students, a category which had been assigned to me without my knowledge or concurrence, was just utterly crappy.

The year was 1972. I had some sort of vague Civics class, or perhaps it was American History — it doesn’t matter what it was now, so many decades later.

The teacher was a woman in her forties, an age that seemed ancient to her students. Her name was Joyce. She may very well be in a nursing home, or dead, by now — I don’t know.

Joyce had an interest in the burgeoning counter-culture movement of those years; if she had been younger she would have been a hippie. One day, as I was dying of boredom in her class, Joyce announced “Class, I have a song I’d like you to hear! It’s by John Lennon!”

In retrospect, technology was so charmingly primitive back then! Joyce pulled a vinyl LP from its cardboard sleeve and gently laid it upon a mechanical turntable. She slowly dropped the needle into the groove of the track she wanted us to hear.

That was the first time I ever heard John Lennon singing his song “Imagine”. It’s an idealistic song, well suited for young people who haven’t become jaded, and haven’t yet been sucked into the dominant corporate/military paradigm.

I was heartened to hear a young singer cover this song four decades later.

So some of that sixties idealism still survives!

Larry

Bisbee Arthropodia

Last week I was trudging up one of Bisbee’s many sets of concrete steps. This particular stairway extends all the way from Brewery Gulch to OK Street. About thirty steps above me I noticed some sort of commotion. A shirtless man was poking a long stick into the branches of a Chinaberry tree. He was shouting “That thing is huge!”

Of course I was curious. As I approached the man he exclaimed “I think I got it!”

I said to him “What did you find?”

“A big-ass spider! It’s all hairy and everything!”

A large spider, perhaps two and a half inches across the leg-span, was clinging to what looked like a.length of yucca stalk which the man held away from his body. He was an arachnophobe, it seemed.

“Let me see it!” I said. The man gave me the yucca stalk and I regarded the hairy spider. I gently prodded it with my finger. The man blanched.

“That bugger’s prob’ly poisonous!”

“Probably not. Hey, ya got a jar around somewhere?”

The man went into a house whose door was standing upon and came out with a little jelly jar. I coaxed the spider into the jar, then took it home with me.

Then I did a careless and reprehensible thing. I left the spider in the jar with the lid cracked for several days, and just this afternoon I remembered the creature in its glass prison cell. I peered into the jar apprehensively. Was it dead? I touched the spider’s bloated and horned abdomen with a pencil. It moved away, so it was still alive.

I took the jar out onto the front porch slab and tried to tip the spider out for a belated photo session. The spider seemed to have made a web attachment to the bottom of the jar, but with some shaking and prodding I managed to turn it out on to a terra-cotta pot base. I think it felt threatened (I sure would have felt that way!) and it turned over while exuding a silken escape cord:

Arthro-1

I turned the spider right-side-up and examined it. What a fat pale abdomen, with four prominent pores and two horn-like structures!

Arthro-2

This next shot is my favorite. It shows the multiple eyes and the unsettling translucence of its legs:

Arthro-3

One more shot:

Arthro-4

I thought after the stress of a photo session that the spider would take off for parts unknown, but for some reason it’s still hanging around out on the porch. Perhaps it’s just hungry and traumatized, or maybe I have a new pet!

There is a quite annoying buggy season in Bisbee, and also out in the valley, but it doesn’t last too long. My gnat and mosquito bites are finally healing. It’s sort of the Southwest equivalent of black fly season in the North. My fellow musician and friend Jamie has been complaining about being bitten badly while sleeping. He brought me a couple of dead specimens of the offending insect. It’s a tiny fly-like creature, less than one-eighth of an inch long. Here’s the best shot I could get of the tiny corpse:

Arthro-5

Interesting wing patterns! And what are those weird spiky things on its belly? Bev submitted my photo to Bugguide.net, and maybe somebody in that network can help with an ID.

Larry

Goin’ Up Turkey Creek To Have A Little Fun

The other day my friend Maggie and I were talking about a video someone had posted on Facebook. The clip showed rushing waters cascading down the rocky bed of Turkey Creek, which drains into the Sulphur Springs Valley from the lofty heights of the Chiricuahua Mountains.

Maggie said “Man, we should go up there before the monsoon rains have drained away! Finner would just love it!” Finner is Maggie’s five-year-old son; she’s a single mom.

Well, I knew that I would just love it too, but the Chiricuahuas are over an hour’s drive away, and such an excursion would cost money, mainly for gas for my truck. But then I’d been wanting to get over there all summer. Those mountain canyons harbor ecosystems quite different from those in the the desert canyons around Bisbee and the lowland Chihuahuan desert scrub habitats with which I am most familiar. It would be cooler in the higher altitudes, and there are Ponderosa Pine and Arizona Cypress groves.

What tipped the balance for me was when Maggie offered to pay part of the gasoline expenses. She also owed me a restaurant meal.

We planned to leave Bisbee at 8:30 Friday morning. I showed up at Maggie’s place a bit early, as it was a sunny morning and I was anxious to get started. Finner was already up and running, but Maggie was still sleeping. I ate some raisin bran with Finner and we went outside, where Finner showed me some gymnastic maneuvers involving a stair railing.

It had been a while since I had driven up into the northern reaches of the Sulphur Springs Valley. We passed many irrigated fields, some circular, and some sort of forage sorghum seemed popular — probably grown for silage. We turned east on another blacktop, and as we neared the foothills of the Chiricuahua Mountains the road turned to dirt. Turkey Creek Road!

We drove to the very end of the road, which has a turnaround loop. Along the way we noticed several small campgrounds and picnic areas along the rocky creek. We drove back, parked, and started walking up the creek. Finner ranged on ahead and before long he was wet all over. Each reach of the creek revealed yet another waterfall with scoured-out pools at the base. We caught up with Finner and due to the noise of the waterfalls and riffles he didn’t know we were watching. A charming sight; Finner was absorbed in play and talked softly to himself.

Turkey_Creek-1

The water wasn’t running torrentially, but it made its way downstream briskly.

Turkey_Creek-2

A peculiar vegetative mound caught my attention. It was growing from a recently flooded gravel bar, and it looked like some sort of fractal-network dome of lacy leaves.

Turkey_Creek-3

The leaves were curiously forked, and close up had an intriguing interlocking pattern:

Turkey_Creek-5

A bit later Maggie exclaimed “Look, there’s one with a flower stalk!” The flowers stemming from the low dome of leaves were in white clusters:

Turkey_Creek-6

I have not been able to identify this plant yet. Farther upstream clumps of a very ornamental grass began to appear. The oat-like dangling floral structures shimmered and danced in the slightest breeze:

Turkey_Creek-7

A waterfall formed by a fallen pine trunk holding back the flow. I’ve seen similar impromptu waterfalls on Nova Scotia streams:

Turkey_Creek-8

A species of Columbine with large yellow flowers was hard to resist! Note the insect damage on the petals:

Turkey_Creek-9

We came to a large boulder washed by pure water. Maggie said “Finner — get up on that rock so I can take your picture!” He clambered up onto the rock, Maggie shot some photos, and I said “Maggie, why don’t you get up there too, and I’ll take a couple of pix.”

“Oh, no, Larry…”

“Go ahead! It’ll just take a minute!”

Turkey_Creek-91

This orange flower looked like an explosion in space, like when an alien spacecraft is hit with a particle beam:

Turkey_Creek-92

Sometime Finner would sit on the rocks for a while, seemingly in a contemplative mood. Rather unusual for a five-year-old!

Turkey_Creek-93

Finner found a charming little frog and began to carry it with him. He would repeatedly lose the creature and recapture it.

“Mom, can I take this frog home?”

“No, Finner, I think he’d be happier here than at our house.”

Climbing up the rocks, frog in hand:

Turkey_Creek-94

Turkey_Creek-95

I said “Finner, come over here and let me photograph that frog!” He held the frog out and I managed to get only one well-focused shot:

Turkey_Creek-96

After another hour of waterfalls and cool new plants, Finner was starting to get tired and a bit fussy. He was doing great for a little guy! He began to rub one of his eyes. “Mom, my eye hurts!”

Maggie squatted down and examined his eye. “I don’t see anything in it!”

Maggie glanced at me, and in an undertone said “Larry, do you think this frog has venom?”

“Naw, I really doubt it! He’s just tired out.”

A few minutes later Finner said “Mom, I think it’s the frog venom which is hurting my eye! It’s getting worse!”

He had overheard Maggie’s comment to me! We tried to allay his fears, and after a while we were back in the truck. Finner’s pain seemed to have subsided.

The long needles of an Apache Pine silhouetted against the sky:

Turkey_Creek-97

Earlier in the day, as we drove up Turkey Creek Road, a female wild turkey had crossed the road in front of the truck. Finner was excited to see it. As we drove back down the road on our way back to the highway, Finner said to himself:

“We went to Turkey Creek, and we saw a turkey!”

To a five-year-old many aspects of the world just don’t make sense, but here was a clear logical connection for the boy. That’s why they named it Turkey Creek!

Driving back down through the valley we were surrounded by splendid skyscapes as the sun began to set. I should have shot some photos, but we were hungry and tired. Quite a pleasant adventure, all in all!

Larry